At SmartMouth we talk a lot about content, in particular how to structure and present it, but once you have that down, you need start thinking about your physical presence. One of the most important aspects of your physical presence is your voice. Your voice literally sets the tone of your presentation and, if done properly, connects your audience to you. Your voice also establishes your credibility and trustworthiness.
Now, the problem with the physical aspects of communicating is that everyone has different mannerisms and physical characteristics, and we don’t believe in forcing everyone to fit a certain mold. What works for one person, doesn’t always work for another. However, how you use your voice is something that can be relatively easily modified and have a big impact.
There are three key tips that we give our clients to help engage the audiences with their voice:
- Modulate your voice. Avoid speaking in a monotone. Regularly adjust the tone, volume, and pitch of your voice. The audience needs change to draw their attention back to you. That can be something as simple as walking around the room or changing a slide, but your voice is one of the most effective ways to draw the audience’s attention back to you. Also, monotone suggests to the audience that you’re bored and don’t care. And why should they care if you don’t sound like you do?
- Match your voice to your words and the moment. When you are talking about something sad or happy, make sure your tone matches the emotion. You would be surprised how often people use a tone that is inappropriate for the moment. For example, people often think that delivering bad news, like job cuts, in an upbeat tone will make the news sound better. But the reality is that it makes it worse and alienates the audience. It will seem inappropriate and insincere to the audience. Your goal as a speaker should be to empathize with your audience, be as real as possible, and not confuse or potentially anger them.
- Don’t fall into a rhythm. A constant rhythm or tempo runs the risk of putting people into a trance. You will want to adjust your speed. Sometimes you will want to speak slowly and other times you will want to speak a little faster (never too fast, of course!). You will also want to use pauses so your audience can digest or mull over important points. It can be a dramatic pause too, allowing you to create suspense or emphasis. Tempo is a powerful tool to make sure the audience does not drift away from you.
A good voice is like a good story. It has highs and lows, suspense and excitement, and slow parts and fast parts. Your voice, like your body language, is a critical delivery tool, so use it to your advantage!